Trader Joe’s Tempura Chicken. This is probably my last non holiday related food item for 2012. Soon it will be time for Turkey and stuffing! Anyway, I’m a nut for all things Asian from Trader Joe’s there are some hits and a lot of misses. The biggest in my mind is the Mandarin Orange Chicken which is nothing more than fried chicken with a sweet and hot sauce poured on top of it. I’ve had authentic Mandarin Orange Chicken from one of the best Chinese restaurants in the Seattle area and it’s like night and day, but I digress…
We are hear to talk about the Trader Joe San Tempura Chicken with a Sweet and Sour sauce. Looking at the bag and knowing Trader Joe’s track record with these frozen Chinese meals in a bag dishes and I am a little skeptical, but this is one of those products that has been in the freezer at Trader Joe’s for years and thought, why not try it and stop avoiding it! I’m glad I tried it, but not because it’s any good or anything like that. I finally got to cross that one off my list.
I have pretty low expectations on this dish. I eat a fair amount of Japanese food as there is a pretty large Japanese population here in the Seattle area. I love sushi and we do get tempura occasionally. Like I said with the Mandarin Orange Chicken, this is basically hunks of white chicken meat breaded and then you bake/stir fry and then pour a sauce over it. Simple is that! Unfortunately, this is not what traditional Japanese Tempura should look like at all. The breading on this is pretty thick and should have a nice snappy crispiness to it. Not a doughy, spongy like texture to the breading on the outside. Then the sauce should not be this sweet/sour sauce of likes I’ve never seen in a Japanese restaurant.
The way that you prepare this is to put it in the oven or the microwave, but seeing how the microwave usually renders the breading on the doughy side, I opted for the oven method. While the chicken is baking, get the sauce packet and warm it up on the counter top or between your hands until it’s thawed out. When the chicken comes out of the oven, but it in a bowl and pour the sauce over the chicken.
OK, how should I rate this dish??? On one hand, this not traditional Japanese tempura. The batter on that should be light and airy and served with a soy sauce based dipping sauce. The batter on the outside should be light and crispy and not doughy, but I don’t thin that most people that are buying this dish care one way or another if it’s a traditional tempura dish or not. It’s just not for me because I really don’t want to eat doughy balls of breaded chicken for dinner. The “tempura” is much softer and less weighty than the Mandarin Orange Chicken, that’s for sure. The meat is more recognizable as hunks of white meat chicken. I suppose in a former life I would’ve eaten this like crazy when I was younger and not as picky as I am now. I think Trader Joe’s biggest mistake was calling it “Tempura” it should really just be called Sweet and Sour chicken and just be done with it. The moniker “tempura” is a little misleading, but that doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy this dish. Which I don’t know if I would sit down and eat it straight up like it is. I would serve it for a party with toothpicks and a couple of different dipping sauces.
Alright, I’m not sure I’ll ever buy it again. It’s just not my cup of tea, but many of you out there will probably enjoy it more than me. But this is my blog… and I am going to rate the Trader Joe’s Tempura Chicken 7 Bells.
Trader Joe’s Firecracker Shrimp. If you’ve been following along for any length of time, you’ll know that I’m a freak for all things Asian. Any time that Trader Joe’s releases something even remotely Asian in flare, I have to snarf it up! When I saw the Trader Joe’s Firecracker Shrimp in the frozen seafood section the other day I said I gotta get home and make this! The picture on the bag looked very enticing!
The subtitle to this product said: “lightly battered & fried shrimp with a fiery, sweet chili sauce” I’m thinking… hmmm more batter. I think people must really like battered Asian food! (See reviews on Manadarin Orange Chicken and Tempura Chicken). Oh well, I’ll give it a shot cuz I’m a sucker for anything remotely Asian… I got it home and looked at the back and it called for baking the shrimp in the oven until they crispy. Hmmm… I didn’t really want to heat up the oven on a hot day so I looked at the secondary preparation instructions and it called for cooking them in a skillet with a fair amount of oil. I remembered the conversation I had with the Trader Joe’s checker when I was checking out and he said that he really loved them, but use a lot of oil to cook them. But, seeing that I am reviewing these products, I wanted to follow the instructions as closely as possible.
So, I heated up the pan and oil and then dumped the shrimp in there and started to cook them. It took a while for them to look like they were crispy. Took them off the burner and, per instructions, drained them on paper towels to soak up the oil. Then I dumped the thawed chili sauce on the shrimp and proceeded eat them.
I’m thinking maybe it would’ve been better to cook them in the oven because these shrimp were pretty oily. The only saving grace was the chili sauce, which was sweet and pretty spicy but in a nicely balanced way. I really liked it! I wish they would put that in a bottle and sell it separately. Back to the shrimp… There was a third preparation method on the back of the bag and that was to deep fry them. I didn’t really want to break out the deep fryer just for this but I think that is the only way this product would be saved. If I was going to buy these again, I would do the oven method and make sure you put down a Silpat Non-Stick Baking Mat (which I can’t live without them) so the shrimp doesn’t stick to the pan.
If you can nail down a cooking method that doesn’t produce oil shrimp, let me know, but the way I cooked them up they were way too oily! The only thing I liked was the sauce. I am going to rate the Trader Joe’s Firecracker Shrimp 6 Bells!
You know me, I am a geek when it comes to new Trader Joe’s products. You can easily spot me walking through the store trying to find the latest and greatest stuff. The staff at my local store all know me, maybe not by name, but by sight. I am there almost every day! In one sense I have to be with two growing boys to feed. I was never raised to be one of those people that did big grocery shopping once every couple of weeks. I think Trader Joe’s is more conducive to frequent visits because the store is so small. It’s so easy to get in and out in a few minutes and the lines are never long at my store. (I have been to stores that are much busier so I know there are some out there that have long lines)
I’m sure this one will show up at the next Fearless Flyer if it hasn’t already. I’m sure Trader Joe’s has had a similar product in the past, but this time they nailed it on the head! We have Trader Jo
e’s (Giotto’s) Ricotta and Spinach filled Ravioli with tomato basil sauce. You know this is something you could whip together in about ten minutes if you had some sauce in a jar and some fresh ravioli.
BUT, Trader Joe’s has gone one better! It’s all frozen and you just drop it into the pan and cook it up! This is a Product of Italy and for some reason those Europeans know how to make frozen meals in a bag that are simply delicious. You can see from the 2nd picture that you get frozen ravioli and little bricks of frozen sauce. Super simple to prepare, but put it all in a skillet and cook until hot.
I could really smell the garlic and basil cooking away in the sauce as I warmed it up. After the prescribed 7-8 minutes, I put it in a large pasta bowl. The sauce looked just right. Not too runny or thick. Not too much or too little sauce. I popped a ravioli in my mouth and it was done just right. I could taste the ricotta in the ravioli. Usually I have a ravioli break open and spill cheese all over the place, but not here. The sauce was nice and fruity and the basil was apparent but I always like more. After I took the picture I sprinkled with some Quattro Formaggio and fresh basil and that really made it a great dish!
If you are looking for a quick meal or not even worried about how quick this is I am going to highly recommend that you run out and buy a couple of bags of this right away if you are into pasta. I am giving this Trader Joe’s Ricotta and Spinach Filled Ravioli with a Tomato Basil Sauce a good 9 Bells!